This post was originally published on May 27, 2017 and updated on April 13, 2021.

Planning a summer barbecue can be more complicated than it was a generation ago. Your parents may have served basic burgers and hot dogs alongside corn on the cob and a bag of chips. Today’s diners often have higher standards, especially when it comes to the environment. A land-consuming main course with a side of genetically modified vegetable isn’t going to satisfy eco-savvy millennials. A better option is to serve food made with non-GMO and eco-friendly ingredients such as natural Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil.

As Tom Colicchio, the head judge of Bravo’s hit show Top Chef, explained in this Media Planet article: “Everywhere, people are caring more about food, what they’re feeding their family and the effects it has on the environment and the effects it has on their well-being.” Colicchio is the co-founder of Food Policy Action, a non-profit that promotes a healthy, sustainable food system. “We need to make sure, as we’re producing food for our ever-expanding planet, that we’re not destroying the planet at the same time,” said Colicchio. He added that sustainability is about protecting diversity in plants and animals, avoiding wasting natural resources like water and energy and not contributing to climate change.

Here’s what you need to know about that basic summer meal:

Our taste for burgers is gulping precious land. Beef production is the largest driver of tropical deforestation in the world. As the single largest anthropogenic user of land, livestock accounts for 71 percent of agricultural land, or 30 percent of land surface on the planet according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report. That’s why groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists are focusing their deforestation campaigns on cattle.

A better option: Serve seafood that has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Genetically modified veggies are ubiquitous. Common GMO foods in the United States include corn, soy, sugar beets, rice, tomatoes, rapeseed (canola), alfalfa and peas. Many of these foods are also hidden ingredients in your family’s favorite foods, making them even more difficult to avoid them. According to USDA data, more than 90 percent of corn and soybean acreage is GMO.

A better option: Shop your local farmer’s market for organic produce and look for products made with non-GMO ingredients.

Manufacturers and chefs alike are turning to non-GMO and heat-stable Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil for food preparation. Palm oil is the world’s most efficient vegetable oil crop. Malaysian palm oil plantations use ten times less land to produce the same amount of oil as soybean fields. In addition, this tree crop – the oil comes from the fruit the tropical palm trees produce – absorbs eight times more harmful greenhouses gases than soybean plants. Oil palm plantations account for just 0.31 percent of the world’s agricultural land use, miniscule compared to livestock.

Share This